2006: LPGA executives continue exodus

Havre de Grace, Md.

The LPGA continues to lose executives at an alarming rate.

Liz Ausman, chief strategic officer; Deb Richard, senior vice president of golf; and Julie Tyson, vice president of partnerships, turned in their resignations June 7, a day before the start of the McDonald’s LPGA Championship, the tour’s second major championship. Ausman and Richard left immediately, Tyson will stay with the LPGA for another week.

The announcement means that seven of the LPGA’s highest-ranking officers have left the tour since Carolyn Bivens took over as commissioner in September.

In three of the four previous cases, staff left for greener pastures.

Kathy Milthorpe, executive vice president and chief financial officer, left the LPGA in September after 17 years to take an executive position with the International Speedway Corp. Barb Trammell, senior vice president

of tournament operations, abruptly resigned in October after 20 years with the LPGA and Rob Neal, vice president of tournament business affairs, left in December to take over as executive director of Tournament Golf Foundation Inc. Karen Durkin, the tour’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, left her post in February after 11 years to assume a role with the National Hockey League as executive vice president of communications and brand strategy.

This time, however, none of the three are leaving for other employment opportunities, and it’s the first time that any of the defectors have publicly questioned Bivens’ direction.

“I’ve lost faith in the leadership,” Richard told the Associated Press. She did not return a call from Golfweek seeking comment. “It’s a sad thing for me to go through. I’ve devoted more than half my life to the LPGA. I feel uniquely connected on all levels, and I truly believe there’s no greater sports property.”

Said Tyson: “While it is not easy to leave an organization that I feel so strongly about and have invested so much in, it is the right time and the right decision for me.”

Bivens issued a statement that had little to do with the departures. That left LPGA board chairwoman Rae Evans to deal with questions.

Many players say they stand completely behind Bivens and her business plan. Most say it is too early to judge Bivens and that any criticisms are unjust.

“It’s unfortunate that we lost some good people, but it happens in business,” Lorie Kane said. “The game plan that Carolyn, the independent board and the executive committee have is going to pay off in the long run.”

The departures of Ausman and Richard are particularly odd because both were brought into the organization by Bivens. Richard, a former player of 20 years and a five-time winner, began her post in November and was a replacement for Trammell. Ausman was hired in February.

“People are going to walk,” Evans said. “This doesn’t bother me at all.”










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